Refugees Are Victims of Chinese Espionage, Not Accomplices

Refugees Are Victims of Chinese Espionage, Not Accomplices

A Tibetan case reveals how the Chinese Communist Party coerces communities worldwide.

Since its occupation of Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party has displaced and murdered tens of thousands of Tibetans with genocidal settler colonial policies. As refugees, Tibetan Americans have worked tirelessly to preserve their language and culture. But it’s a small community of about 26,700 people—and treachery inside it hits particularly hard.

Baimadajie Angwang, a now 33-year-old Tibetan American, traveled to the United States on a cultural-exchange visa when he was 17, which he then purposefully overstayed. He claimed that he would be tortured if he was forced to return to China. His name was a Sinicized version of the Tibetan original, Pema Dhargyal Ngawang, and he couldn’t speak Tibetan, but that’s not unknown for young Tibetans in China, the victims of policies designed to destroy their culture and language. Angwang was granted asylum, and eventually citizenship. He became a police officer, serving as a community liaison in New York, as well as a U.S. Army reservist.

In September, the Department of Justice shocked the Tibetan American community when it charged Angwang with espionage. But this case, disturbing as it is, should mean intensified scrutiny of CCP efforts, especially the support given to them through consulates, not of Tibetan refugees themselves. Efforts by some politicians to use the fear of espionage to  block the arrival of more refugees are deeply misguided.